Jay Pritchett is in many ways the wisest member of Modern Family‘s extended family. Jay has lived the longest, has created his own successful closet business, and is knowledgeable on many things that his younger family members know nothing about. As a result, Jay endeavors to share as much of his hard-earned wisdom as possible with the rest of the family.
Throughout the course of the series, however, many of Jay’s opinions are brought into question by Gloria and Manny, who see the world in a very different way. Against the backdrop of the younger members of the Dunphy-Pritchett-Delgado clan, Jay’s wiser pieces of advice stand in stark contrast to his sometimes outdated and downright bad advice.
10 Worst: “Stress is all a part of football. If you’re not throwing up in your mouth, you’re not doing it right.”
Throughout the series, Jay often exposes some of his problematic ideas around masculinity and what it means to be a man. This sets him aside significantly from both his son Mitchell and son-in-law Phil, who each approach their lives and their masculinity in very different ways.
Jay’s approach to football and sport in general often puts him at odds with Manny, who does not subscribe to Jay’s aggressive approach. Although Manny enjoys playing football and tries his best, his idea of enjoyment is quite far removed from Jay’s.
9 Best: “You would be a lot happier if you weren’t so obsessed with everything being perfect.”
In the final episode of the first season of Modern Family, Claire tries to get the perfect portrait of the Pritchett-Dunphy-Delgado family and finds herself faced with endless setbacks. Claire becomes increasingly agitated and Jay grows tired of his daughter’s search for perfectionism.
In protest of Claire’s efforts for the flawless portrait, Jay starts a mud-fight and the whole family gets involved. The result is a collection of photographs showing the family covered in mud, but looking happy and carefree. Jay has at least temporarily managed to convince his daughter not to dwell on perfection.
8 Worst: “A boy is supposed to fear his father.”
Thanks to Manny and Gloria, much of Jay’s problematic ideas on masculinity have begun to turnaround by the time Joe comes into the picture, however, some still pop up now and then. On this particular occasion, Joe admits to Jay that he has spilled juice on the rug, and pleads with his father not to tell Gloria.
Jay is appalled at the realization that his young son is more afraid of his mother than he is of his father, as in Jay’s eyes it is only right for a son to fear his father. Luckily for Joe, such advice from his father will undoubtedly be counteracted by Gloria and is unlikely to take root.
7 Best: “People say clothes make the man but that makes no sense. What makes the man is a nice head of hair.”
Jay has never been one for putting excessive effort into his wardrobe, however, during the Halloween episode in season six, that changes. When Gloria decides to dress as Princess Fiona for Halloween, Jay refuses to dress as Shrek and vows to find a more handsome character.
Jay decides on a Prince Charming costume, complete with a blond wig, and starts to get comfortable with having hair on his head again. Jay reminisces on his youth when he had a full head of hair and decides that it is the hair that makes a man, not the clothes.
6 Worst: “Girls don’t go for all that romantic stuff.”
Jay has never quite understood Manny’s sensitive nature. The way Jay sees it, there is only one way for men to attract the attention of women, and that is through success and power, as opposed to Manny’s sentimental and romantic approach to dating.
Assuming that Manny will have neither success nor power, Jay informs him that he must resign himself to being the funny guy. Not only is this poor advice on Jay’s part, but it is also frequently disproven by Manny, as he attracts female attention by very much being himself and ignoring Jay’s advice.
5 Best: “90% of being a dad is just showin’ up.”
In one of his more sentimental moments, Jay remarks on how being a father did not always turn out as he expected. As a father to Mitchell and Claire, Jay has been through endless surprises, and this continues to be true in his relationship with Joe.
Admitting that things may not always have turned out as he had wanted, Jay maintains that being there has remained the most important part of being a father. Despite his shortcomings, Jay has managed to adapt along with his children’s lives and to be there for them no matter what.
4 Worst: “This whole persnickety thing is not gonna fly in the world.”
As a protective stepfather, Jay worries that Manny may be giving people extra reasons to make fun of him. While this may be coming from a place of protectiveness, Jay is clearly discouraging Manny from being himself.
Throughout the series, Jay has often been the one to criticize Manny’s choices, while Gloria always embraces it. It is obvious that Jay fears for Manny and does not want his life to be difficult, his advice in this regard, however, can often verge on being counterproductive.
3 Best: “A leader leads, not reads.”
Jay is proud of Claire and sees some of himself in his daughter. As a result, he is often tough with Claire, especially when he is encouraging her to believe in herself. Jay hands over his business to Claire but believes that she has the strength and ability to run it herself, without her father’s help.
On this occasion, Jay encourages Claire to assert herself in the presence of her employees and to express her authority, not to doubt herself and read from pre-prepared notes. Although Jay is allowing Claire to take over his business, he firmly believes that she does not need his assistance to succeed.
2 Worst: “Before the game, you eat your calm mammals, your beefs, your muttons.”
Jay’s unusual opinions on how diet can affect sporting performance comes to the fore as he is helping Cam to coach the football team. Upon noticing how poorly the team is playing, Jay questions whether Cam has remembered to tell the players not to eat chicken before a game.
According to Jay, the chicken is a nervous bird, and as such, negatively impacts playing ability, and could be the reason for the team’s lack of focus. Ideally, they should be eating calmer animals, as this will improve their gameplay. While there may be some truth to Jay’s claims, it is much more likely that they are entirely unfounded.
1 Best: “Life is full of changes. Some big, some small. I learned a long time ago you can fight it or try to make the best of it.”
Jay goes on to continue this advice stating that whatever life throws at you, it is always made easier by having a loving family. For a man who is often quite set in his ways, and doesn’t entirely embrace change, this piece of advice is almost surprising.
However, Jay has lived longer than any of the other members of his extended family and has presumably experienced a lot in his time. With all of the changes the Dunphy-Pritchett clan has been through, this advice is sure to hold some weight.
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